The Constitutional Court has reconvened to hear a fresh application filed by Francis Zaake, the Member of Parliament for Mityana Municipality, who is seeking to overturn his impeachment as a Parliamentary Commissioner.
The initial application was heard by a five-member panel comprising Justices Catherine Bamugemereire, Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, Christopher Izama Madrama, Stephen Musota, and Irene Mulyagonja.
However, Justices Madrama and Musota were subsequently elevated to the Supreme Court while the application was still pending judgment. Despite the case being closed in June 2022, no judgment has been delivered due to a loss of quorum along the way.
In response to numerous protests from Zaake regarding the delayed judgment, the Constitutional Court has scheduled a fresh hearing before a new panel.
The petition originated from a parliamentary resolution passed on March 10th, 2020, to remove Zaake from the parliamentary commission on allegations of indiscipline. The resolution was based on a report by the Rules, Discipline and Privileges Committee, chaired by Abdu Katuntu, which found Zaake in breach of public trust and parliamentary decorum.
The investigation into Zaake’s conduct was initiated following a motion by Ojara Mapenduzi, the Member of Parliament for Gulu City Barledge Division, alleging that Zaake had abused the Speaker through his social media handle.
The controversy surrounding Zaake began when he criticized the Speaker on his social media account for her comments during a plenary session honoring legislators and staff who had participated in the East African Legislative Assembly Games in Tanzania.
During the session, the Speaker made a joke about Zaake winning a gold medal for Parliament in the 100-meter race, despite allegedly sustaining a broken leg due to torture by security forces. Anita’s remarks came at a time when legislators were expressing concerns about the rising incidents of torture in the country perpetrated by security agencies.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the impeachment resolution, Zaake petitioned the Constitutional Court, citing procedural impropriety. He argued that Parliament had passed the resolution without the required presence of at least half of all voting members in the House, as mandated by the law. With more than 500 legislators and ex-officials in the current parliament, only 161 MPs participated in the voting process.
Furthermore, Zaake accused members of the Rules Committee of receiving a bribe of Shillings 6 million each from public coffers for their participation in the proceedings that led to his removal from office.
He urged the court to compel the beneficiaries to refund the money to the consolidated fund. Additionally, Zaake requested the court to halt the implementation of the impeachment resolution until his case is determined to prevent irreparable damages.
Zaake’s case was expedited in June 2022 after he met with Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera to demand a swift hearing. However, he has since waited for over a year for the judgment, prompting a fresh hearing today before a new panel consisting of Lady Justice Eva Luswata and Oscar Kihiika, who replaced Justices Musota and Madrama. Justice Bamugemereire, the head of the panel, apologized for the delay, clarifying that it was beyond their control.
During the hearing, the justices posed several questions to the parties involved to gain a deeper understanding of the case and prepare their decision based on the submitted evidence in the court records.
Justice Kihiika specifically asked Solomon Kirunda, the Director for Compliance at Parliament, who represented the Parliamentary Commission along with the Attorney General, for documentary evidence demonstrating that Zaake was invited to defend himself but declined to attend.
In response, Kirunda searched through voluminous papers on his desk for approximately ten minutes but failed to locate the alleged evidence. Eventually, he openly admitted to the court that no summons was sent to Zaake as required by law, although he believed the information might be available in the Hansard.
Lukwago, Zaake’s legal counsel, agreed with this statement, asserting that there was no evidence to prove that Zaake had been served or contacted, and no communication had been filed or referred to by the Clerk of Parliament, Adolf Mwesigye. Lukwago requested the court to render a judgment in Zaake’s favor, despite his absence from the proceedings.
Sam Tusubira, a State Attorney from the Attorney General’s Chambers, asked the court to consider their earlier submissions, which were already on file. The justices have now retired to write their judgments and assured the parties involved that they will be notified once the decisions are ready.